Over The Creek was chopped by totesport into 16-1 for the Coral Welsh National after a bloodless victory at Hereford.
David Pipe’s 11-8 favourite, who finished second to Moulin Riche at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival, returned to the form his connections knew he was capable of after two previous forays over fences cut little ice.
Stepped up in trip and down in grade for the wyevalleygroup.com Beginners’ Chase, the eight-year-old had no trouble seeing off Carl Llewellyn’s highly-regarded Hennessy by an eased-down four lengths under Tony McCoy.
“Over The Creek currently sits on 9st 11lb in the Welsh National weights after picking up a 5lb penalty,” said totesport spokesman Damian Walker.
“He is rated 10lb higher over hurdles than his current chase mark and even allowing for the penalty, he is well treated in the Welsh National.
“Over The Creek was a one-time favourite for the SunAlliance Chase a couple of seasons ago and big things were expected of him over fences.
“He is not certain to see out the trip at Chepstow later this month, but will have a featherweight to carry in a race that is usually run in bottomless ground.”
Despite seemingly well treated, owner David Johnson was non-committal about Over The Creek’s participation in the marathon event.
“I know he is in the Welsh National but I’ve still got four at this stage,” said Johnson.
“It hasn’t been a very lucky race for me though, in fact I don’t even think I’ve had a finisher in the race!
“On his hurdle form he was well clear on the ratings so he’s done it as he should have done really and Ferdy Murphy’s horse (Shouldhavehadthat) was upsides and going well when he fell.
“That took a bit away from the race because according to the betting it was a three-horse race and the second favourite finished second so I’m not sure what the form is worth.
“I’m pleased to have a winner but it’s just a shame Timmy Murphy (retained jockey) wasn’t on him.
“I think I’ve had nine winners since he’s been suspended and it must be rubbing salt into the wounds.”
Pipe also won the opening Lindley Catering Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle with Brousse En Feux, a fourth career winner for Danny Cook.
Pennek made a fine introduction to the hurdling game under Robert Thornton - but his 4-1 success in the Weatherbys Messaging Service Novices’ Hurdle came as a surprise to trainer Alan King.
“I’m delighted, but a little bit shocked,” said King.
“First time over hurdles, I didn’t think he’d know the job enough to do himself justice.
“He’s a big, backward baby but he jumped grand.”
Thornton also landed the Richard Davis Memorial Handicap on Richard Lee’s Pedros Brief (8-1) to earn a 44-1 double.
Sam Thomas continued his unbelievable run with a 5-1 double on the Venetia Williams-trained Never So Blue (5-4 favourite) in the Fred Rimell Memorial Novices’ Chase and Paul Nicholls’ Take Me There (7-4 favourite) in the concluding bumper.
Christian Williams was also on the scoresheet when booting home Sonnengold (2-1) to a four-length verdict over Penric in the RS Signs And Engraving Selling Hurdle.